Summit County towns agree to establish emergency response team |

Summit County towns agree to establish emergency response team

Blue River, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne police chiefs will meet to discuss policies, recruitment and equipment

The Summit County Combined SWAT team responds to an incident in Wildernest in 2017. Police chiefs in Blue River, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne will have a new Municipal Emergency Response Team now that the Summit SWAT team has been disbanded.
Eli Pace/Summit Daily News archive

Participating towns have passed an agreement establishing a new Municipal Emergency Response Team.

Police forces in Blue River, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne have been working together to start the team to respond to critical incidents within the county after the Summit County Combined SWAT team was dissolved last year.

Similar to a SWAT team, the new team would respond to the most dangerous types of situations, including barricaded armed individuals, hostage situations, the execution of high-risk warrants, terrorists threats and more.

Blue River and Frisco adopted the agreement establishing the team in November, Dillon in December, and Silverthorne was the last to do so at its town council meeting last week. development of the team is in the early stages, and Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor emphasized that it shouldn’t be rushed and could take at least a year to get off the ground.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Minor said. “It’s going to be a process, and it’s going to take time since we’re all struggling to hire up here anyway.”

The next step is for the police chiefs involved to meet and form policies, recruit members, appoint a team leader, train everyone and find tactical equipment. The team will have 15 to 20 members, and Minor said the leader will be someone with tactical experience who can guide the team and make suggestions on policy.

“They’ll be given a great deal of latitude on how to build this team and get it up to a certain capability,” Minor said.

Blue River Police Chief Ahmet Susic said given Summit County’s location, waiting for out-of-county specialized teams to respond to a critical incident would further jeopardize the community, meaning he believes the new team is essential. Blue River Police Department was not part of the former Summit SWAT team and saw this as an opportunity to get involved.

“We have a small county, and we have six different agencies,” Susic said. “It’s crucial that we train together because we’re going to be responding to each other’s calls, and having that training among our officers as a prior knowledge would benefit everybody.”

Frisco Police Chief Tom Wickman shared the same sentiment and said the towns working together and sharing personnel can make it go smoother when they need to handle longer, drawn-out incidents. Wickman said the chiefs overseeing the team will determine what kind of equipment the team will need and where it will come from.

Dillon Police Chief Cale Osborn said his department requires its officers to go through some sort of basic SWAT school, saying it’s just good knowledge to have. He added that the training can make it easier for his department to recruit officers for the emergency response team.

Osborn also emphasized that any multi-jurisdictional collaboration is difficult right now given staffing and budget challenges, but it’s an important resource for the community that the towns will continue to work toward.

While the emergency response team isn’t yet operational, Minor said police officers have been good about setting up perimeters and containing situations in the interim, and Eagle and Clear Creek counties both have their own SWAT teams should a situation come to that point.

Minor said he thinks not having a tactical team in the county is negligent and that the police departments will do what they can to get the new group off the ground despite limited staffing and resources. Police departments aren’t immune to COVID-19 either, and Minor said this has caused the latest hit on his staff.

“There’s been a couple times we’ve wondered, “Are we going to be OK to actually have cops on the street?” Minor said. “It’s not just cops, it’s firefighters, paramedics, nurses, doctors. Every emergency service you can imagine, dispatchers. … This whole emergency system relies on highly competent, professionally trained people, and if they can’t come to work, it gets scary.”

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Breckenridge Police Department plan to provide some advanced training to all of their officers as opposed to providing highly specialized training to a few individuals as part of the new team, though those involved in the Municipal Emergency Response Team previously said they’d welcome members from the Sheriff’s Office and Breckenridge police should they decide to join in the future.

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